The Jewelry Market: Where All That Glitters Is Not Gold
Read on to find out more about the booming secondary market for jewelry, and how to invest wisely.
The jewelry industry is possibly the only market with more fakes, frauds, and freewheeling characters than the art world. Although uncut gems have been making headlines recently, there’s much more to this fascinating collecting category than the raw beauty of one lucky opal. Read on to find out more about the booming secondary market for jewelry.
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
BRAND IS EVERYTHING
Brand names make the money move in jewelry sales. A signed piece with a serial number from a major house like Cartier, Tiffany, or Bulgari will fetch hundreds of times more at auction than an equivalent piece made with the same materials, but with no known maker. In the art market, an artist’s death can often make values go up. By contrast, jewelry from companies that are still in operation perform better at auction than those from historic or discontinued brands.
For example, according to the Artnet Price Database, “an emerald single-stone ring” weighing 30.22 carats and set between two diamonds sold for nearly $50,000 at Bonhams London in September 2015. But “an important art deco emerald and diamond ring by Black, Starr & Frost” weighing in at 17.02 carats and also set between two diamonds sold for nearly $500,000 at Christie’s Geneva in November 2017. Despite the Black, Starr & Frost ring being a mere cabochon rather than a cut gem, it went for ten times the price—likely because it was signed by a known maker from a still-operational house.
TIME TO INVEST
If you’re looking to break into the secondary market for jewelry, watches may be your best bet. The watch market alone is projected to exceed $50 billion in sales over the next two years—almost as much as the art market in its entirety. Pieces by Patek Phillippe, Rolex, and Cartier in particular have achieved record prices in the last five years, and as a whole, the Decorative Art Price Database records over 11,000 watch lots that sold for over $10,000 at auction. First-time buyers should look at smaller, regional auction houses to try to get their hands on a vintage model at a more affordable price—keep it for a few years, and it’s quite likely to increase in value.
It’s currently a sellers’ market: Patek Phillippe’s Nautilus model is still sold directly by the retailer for around $30,000, but on the secondary market, it can fetch as much as $122,000. Why? The waitlist to purchase a new one is eight years long! If your grandfather’s Rolex is collecting dust in your desk drawer, you may want to strike while the market is this hot.
To learn more, a custom Artnet Analytics Report will give you the information you need to drive your decisions with data—contact us to get started.
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